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QUEEN OF THE STONE AGE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 30, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

QUEEN OF THE  STONE AGE 11th Annual Mustangs At The Queen Mary Words and pictures by Brian Kennedy

The Mustang hobby as we knew it is dead. At least, that's what it appeared at the 11th Annual Mustangs at the Queen Mary show sponsored by the Beach Cities Mustang Club on September 23, 2007. Perhaps you remember when Mustang shows were collections of 1960s cars, each configured just as it had come out of the showroom years before. No modifications, no modern cars. Perhaps you liked it that way. Well, here's news: those days are gone in favor of fields which feature many more Mustangs from this Millennium than the prior one. Depending on your perspective, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Why the change? Not that long ago, you could still buy a reasonable condition used Mustang on the open market for a few thousand bucks, put some repop parts on it to bring it back to new, have it painted, and be done without taking out a second mortgage. Those days, despite an ill-researched story in Mustang Monthly a few issues ago, are gone. (Am I alone here? That piece said something like, 'Perhaps you want an early Mustang coupe that an old man owned and the family is selling for $3500?' as if to imply that those were out there for the taking. That, my friends, is a load of crap.) Trust me. I look at every car that comes available on the LA market, in ads or in person, in search of my perfect ride. And everything I've seen in the past two years has either been over 10 grand, or junk. Not unrestorable, but so far gone to need complete redoing, the kind of work that puts the sucker who writes the checks for it way in the hole. These days, you're going to have $15K in a restored 1966 289 coupe, at least, and maybe twice that depending on what you start with. And that's if you can find something that's worth bothering with to begin with, which is something of a rarity. I've found just two decent cars over the past two years. I bought the second one, sure that I'd look for another year before it happened again. So maybe it's not that surprising that at a premier Mustang show like the QM event, the population of cars has shifted radically over the past few years so that now modern-era cars are more prevalent than ever.

So what you saw, if you perused the show field, were lots of 2005-07 GTs, specialized models like the Roush and Cobra but also normal production models, many kitted out with modifications from superchargers to fancy taillight surrounds. If you're into the vintage Mustangs, the ones that started the hysteria, this is kind of depressing. You go to these sorts of shows to see the cars of your youth, your dreams, the era when gas was cheap and safety features confined to lap belts and padded dashes. If you're into keeping the hobby alive, of course, you see something different. You see guys who don't have to scour alleys and craigslist.org for cars to work on. You see guys who truly can drive their cars every day, in many cases, because these are the only vehicles they own. You see young people - the future of the hobby. The guys who, twenty years from now, will be restoring the very cars they're showing in 2007, keeping the mystique of their youth alive the way that older people do when they restore a GT/CS (California Special) of the first generation. In other words, you see that this hobby is alive and well, for at least another two decades. Despite that, and perhaps because I love the old cars (don't send nasty emails - I also own a recent-model GT), I decided not to talk to any of these youngsters at this year's show. Why? Because I assumed that there's just not that much of a story there with the cars being essentially brand new. I'm willing to stand corrected on that.

So I found the four people at the Queen Mary show who I thought were the most interesting. And then I quizzed them to find out why they had the super-cool old vehicles they had. Jay Tapp is the kind of guy who could sell ice cubes in Finland in the winter - he's just got that kind of personable attitude. His approach to the show field is not the usual I'll-sit-here-in-my-lawnchair-looking-bored deal. Instead, he stood out in front of his Mustang all day, inviting questions and reveling in the memories of those who approached. You might imagine that his ride was a classic Shelby or 64-1/2 convertible. No way. The guy's collectible is a 1978 Mustang Ghia. Yep, the dreaded second-generation. The orphan era. Lee Iacocca's nightmare. And he's not a bit sorry. In fact, his approach is characterized by his statement that "everybody kind of drove one of these at one point in time." He's had the car three months, and it's his first collectible Ford. His motivation for buying it? "Just because I have fun at shows. If you're going to reflect Ford history, these are a part of that" he adds as he says that it's actually pretty rare to see one at most events. "It's a blast seeing people come up and chuckle." In fact, he seemed to engage all who passed by, sharing memories of this generation of cars and showing off his car's perfect paint job.

Nearby, Tom Baker sat next to his 1968 Mustang coupe, but he jumped up quickly when I approached and offered to take the Mustang pledge. That because the display in front of his car had an old bumper sticker that urged me to do so. "Oh, I've forgotten the pledge" he said, "That was a long time ago, that Ford campaign." Then he proceeded to tell the story of his car, which he is the original owner of. "I bought it December 5, 1968, from a dealer in Lompoc. It was a dealer demo - in fact, the dealer's wife's car - and by the time I got it, the 1969s were out, so I got it for about $3,000." The original invoice price, according to the paperwork he had on display, was about a thousand dollars more. He used the car as his daily driver until 1995, when it had nearly 92,000 miles. The first 50,000 came in almost precisely five years. "The warranty expired the same week it turned five, and I took it in to the dealer and had them look it over. They said everything was fine, but when I got home, I saw that they'd filled the trunk with a bunch of the expendable parts - an alternator, a starter, stuff like that." It had been parked for a while when his brother talked him into restoring it. Not only was it a one-owner car, but it was factory equipped with every option except air-conditioning. Now renewed with its sunlit gold paint gleaming and both upper and lower consoles in place, it's like 1968 all over again. Trouble to shows" he said. Lucky for those in Long Beach, he made the trip from Placentia for this event.

Dave Doughty stood next to a slightly weathered 1965 Mustang Fastback with what he described as thirty year-old paint. Looking the car over, I also noticed a kind of odd lettering scheme on the lower front fender. "P-51/63" it said. Huh? "P-51 means Mustang - the fighter plane" he said, "And in Ford-speak, 63 is the model designation for the first Mustangs, so P-51/63 says 1965 Mustang." His stories go way deeper than that. He bought this car in 1972, with 11,000 miles on the clock. It now shows 528,300, and the engine has had only a minor rebuild. How? "I stay on top of the oil changes, and I don't race. I mean, kids pull up beside me and I hear, 'Vroom, Vroom,' but I'm 55. I'm not racing anybody. I drive it easy. Plus, I guess I got one not built on a Monday or a Friday." He smiles. "By the way, the tranny has never been rebuilt." The car has outlasted a number of modern cars. For a while, he retired it in favor of a Bronco. "But that fell apart." Later, it was a Taurus. "Fell apart." And then a Plymouth Voyager. "That too, fell apart" he says, "And each time, I just ended up going back to the Mustang and driving it again. It's now my daily driver, about 60 miles round trip." You might have seen it on the freeway. He's been approached by someone in a parking lot who exclaimed, "I see you on the Garden Grove Freeway all the time." Half a million miles will do that. One final notable Ford and owner - Bill Griffin, who owns Cobra CSX 4266 but on this day had a 1966 CS Ford 500 transport truck. But not just any old truck. This one, at least according to its faded lettering, was Shelby team transporter from the old days. Griffin says he's busy authenticating the vehicle, having just brought it down from Surrey, BC. But once it's documented, he plans to sell it and donate the money to Shelby's Children's Fund and the "Donkey Fund" which is a kitty for Shelby's original employees. The truck runs like a new one. Griffin drove it from Phoenix for this event and a Cobra show in Santa Monica and planned to jump in and cover the 350 miles back to Arizona after the Queen Mary show closed out. Its allure is in its patina, and one hopes that whoever buys it will gently polish it and display it like it is.

So what to conclude? If you like Mustangs, you can expect the hobby to survive well into the next decade and beyond. But if when you say that you mean, "I like the 60s cars" you'd better get to a show near you soon, because the day is coming when there are going to be a few of those gathered in a corner of the display field surrounded by many, many more modern-era cars. And some of them will proudly display modifications from window louvers to gull-wing doors. You'll be sorry, when that day comes, that you didn't get out and meet people like these four fellows. And if you're a vintage-only kind of Mustang fan, you'll wish for the good old days. The truth, of course, depends on your point of view. How does Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness end? With Kurtz's fiancée believing that his final words were her name, but with the reader knowing that they actually were, "The Horror! The Horror!" It's all a matter of perspective.

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